Perhaps I am a little confused, but didn’t the Obama Administration tell the American public only months ago that TARP was turning a profit? But now the same administration is proposing to assess a fee on banks to cover losses from the TARP. Maybe President Obama is coming around to the realization that the TARP has indeed been a loser for the taxpayer. He appears, however, to be missing the critical reason why: the bailouts of the auto companies and AIG, all non-banks. This is to say nothing of the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose losses will far exceed those from the TARP. Where is the plan to re-coup losses from Fannie and Freddie? Or a plan to re-coup our rescue of the autos?
If the effort is really about deficit reduction, then it completely misses the mark. Any serious deficit reduction plan has to start with Medicare and Social Security. Assessing bank fees is nothing more than a rounding error in terms of the deficit. Let’s put aside the politics and get serious about both fixing our financial system and bringing our fiscal house into order. The problem driving our deficits is not a lack of revenues, aside from effects of the recession, revenues have remained stable as a percent of GDP, the problem is runaway spending.
The bank tax would also miss what one has to guess is Obama’s target, the bank CEOs. Econ 101 tells us (maybe the President can ask Larry Summers for some tutoring) corporations do not bear the incidence of taxes, their consumers and shareholders do. So the real outcome of this proposed tax would be to increase consumer banking costs while reducing the value of bank equity, all at a time when banks are already under-capitalized.